With Factory Precision, Colt’s Workers Bring A Message To Lawmakers

by Categorized: Jobs, Manufacturing, Politics Date:

You’d expect the 175-year-old gun manufacturer that invented mass production to pull off an orderly trip to the state Capitol and that’s exactly what Colt’s Manufacturing Co. did on Thursday, as 550 employees left a clear message, then returned to work.

“Save our jobs.”

They piled into ten full-size luxury buses, mostly from the Constitution Coach Co., making for an appropriately labeled convoy from the factory of Colt’s and sister company Colt Defense LLC on New Park Avenue, just over the West Hartford line.

Nancy Reder on the bus to the state Capitol. Patrick Raycraft/The Hartford Courant

Nancy Reder on the bus to the state Capitol. Patrick Raycraft/The Hartford Courant

It was an action of the company, not the United Auto Workers union that represents 489 people at the firearms plant.  The UAW, in fact, has been strangely silent on gun control at the state Capitol this year despite the threat to jobs.

Click here for photos of the event

Managers, top executives, union and nonunion staff, first-shifters on the company clock, second- and third-shift workers on their own time — they all traveled together for the 9-minute ride, were unified in chanting that slogan outside the Legislative Office Building, then stood vigil in neat lines on all five levels of the marble atrium, holding red-and-white placards as lawmakers convened yet another hearing on gun control.

“I feel I make a difference,” said Nancy Reder, a buyer of maintenance products and services who has worked at Colt and Colt’s for 35 years.  She was talking about both her job and her role in Thursday’s event.

Reder, wearing jeans and a Colt-embroidered denim jacket, was struck by the beauty of the state Capitol in the sunlight as employees marched past the south entrance, under the office windows of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

Malloy wants to ban the sale of AR-15 military style, semiautomatic rifles, one of the main products these workers make and sell.  Colt’s has been the largest factory contingent to make a stand before lawmakers, but on Monday, Stag Arms closed production in New Britain and brought dozens of workers, and employees of O.F. Mossberg & Sons in North Haven have also made the trip.

It’s not the same message delivered by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups, which have brought thousands of people to the Capitol to drive home their points about personal freedom and the Second Amendment.

No, at Colt and Colt’s, the message is about the community — 670 jobs between the two companies at the West Hartford facility, an unknowable number of which would be threatened by an outright ban on AR-15 rifles proposed by Malloy and some Democratic legislators.

They were polite, they moved in and out of the building as one, and they were armed with written talking points: “We are your neighbors and we want a safer Connecticut too. A ban on our product will not make us safer. Keeping firearms out of the wrong hands will.”

Kevin Parkinson, a 14-year security employee at Colt Defense, had a deeper connection to the Newtown tragedy  than many, as his wife, Katrina Devona, grew up in that town and attended the Sandy hook Elementary School.

“It hit pretty hard,” Parkinson said, but he, like everyone on these buses, holds steadfastly to the belief that his work is not making the world more dangerous.

There is no wavering on that point, and it was hard to even find Colt employees who have had animated conversations with people who favor a ban on military-style rifles. “For the most part, my family and friends think the way I do,” said Deneen Silvers, a labor relations manager at Colt’s.  As for lawmakers on the other side of the issue, she said, “We think we can work together.”

One possible compromise is a full registration requirement, as already exists for handguns, for all firearms that have a pistol grip — or for all rifles.  Many of the Colt and Colt’s workers said that wouldn’t be so bad, if it would avert a ban on the AR-15 rifle that’s such a big part of their livelihoods.

Colt and Colt’s, which are separately, privately owned but operate under the same roof under joint agreements, have invested heavily in civilian versions of the AR-15 over the last five years, as sales of the military version, the M-4, have wound down. AR-15 sales in Connecticut are just a small part of revenues, of course, but the stakes of a ban are still perilously high for these workers.

“Let’s say it passes,” Colt’s CEO Dennis Veilleux said. “Our customers are going to try to apply pressure to us by not buying our product. They’re going to come right out and tell us, ‘Get out of Connecticut.”

“If we don’t stand up and fight,” Veilleux added, “they won’t buy our product, in fact they’ll boycott it.”

That’s partly why the company does not officially favor any compromise measures, It’s too bad, but it’s political reality.

Likewise, it’s possible that UAW Region 9A and Local 376 are silent because at the national level, the union is loyal to President Obama, who bailed out the automakers and fought hard to save union jobs.  No one at UAW is talking, at any level, even to return my calls and issue a “no comment.”

The regional and local UAW leaders issued a memo to members Wednesday, saying its workers “have a proud tradition of producing the finest forearms in the world…We are committed to keeping our communities safe and strong.”

The memo had no word one way or another about the legislation.

Mike Holmes, the shop chairman at Colt and Colt’s, was one of many employees who remembered a similar day 20 years ago, when hundreds of Colt’s employees filed into the Capitol complex at a time when lawmakers were considering a similar ban on so-called assault weapons. Then-Lt. Gov Eunice Groark broke an 18-18 tie in the Senate, and the 1993 beat a national ban by one year.

“We filled the chambers,” Holmes recalled.

That law, still in effect in Connecticut, leaves room for sale of modified versions of the AR-15, including the one used by the killer in Newtown, which was made by a different company, Bushmaster.

This time, a ban could have no such wiggle room.  Stricter background check measures and full licensing requirements for rifles with pistol grips might make sense and would keep Connecticut in the vanguard of gun control legislation.

But bans on equipment make less sense, and no sense at all for individual states to pass. An estimated 8 million military-style rifles are in circulation in the United States and they do not respect state lines.

In late morning, after the bus ride back, all the workers from all the shifts piled back into the 300,000-square-foot complex, with the blue, beveled roofs that identify large factories. The company served lunch for everyone. “They earned it,” Veilleux said as he shook hands and thanked workers, many by first name. “I was going to have it outside but it’s too cold.”

Nancy Reder mused that work is piling up on her desk, and she was eager to jump back into it. “I feel lucky to have the job,” she said. “I don’t take it for granted.”

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54 thoughts on “With Factory Precision, Colt’s Workers Bring A Message To Lawmakers

  1. Sharpshooter

    The UAW, in fact, has been strangely silent on gun control at the state Capitol this year despite the threat to jobs.

    The UAW doesn’t want to rock the boat that contains the politicians whom they have bought and paid for. The rank and file are on their own and maybe this will be a wake up call for a right-to-work bill supported by the rank-and-file.If the union officials won’t represent the rank-and-file, why do they need them?????

  2. Time for Change!

    Typical liberals. They gladly take every dime they can squeeze out of your businesses, and your employees through ever increasing taxes and have made it clear they couldn’t care less about eliminating your jobs by banning the very products you make to produce those taxes they love to take from you.

    I especially loved how the unions reportedly turned their backs on you because they worked so hard to elect the same liberals that are about to send you all to unemployment line.

    You would think that you would at least be entitled to a call back in exchange for your forced union dues, but I guess not, since you have to pay those dues whether you want to or not.

    I can’t understand why any of your companies would want to stay in a state where you are so clearly hated. Governor Rick Perry would welcome your businesses with open arms.

  3. America Is Dying

    CT really is going down the drain!
    This is especially true in CT:
    Unless the Average American works in the Public Sector, they are screwed, plain and simple.

    1. Palin Smith

      Connecticut will only die if people don’t revive it. It doesn’t take miracle for that to happen. It only takes a few thousand active volunteers helping in 2014 campaigns but starting today. Froend me on facebook to learn more.


  4. ccbeachcomber

    With Connecticut as a good example, like “peak oil”, this state reached “peak government” sometime ago. Today government is comprised of a bunch of hysterical, miserable, stiffs with absolutely no ability to manage or plan. More legislation is piled on other wasteful, pie in the sky ineffective legislation. While taxes are raised more and more in an effort to discourage initiative and stifle growth, votes are bought from those directly affected by these efforts, bankruptcy and unemployment. Grow the economy by reining in government to do the job it was meant to do.

  5. Class Act - COLT

    It is truly a sad day in America when the media has to continue to play a tragedy such as Sandy Hook daily in order to support the politicians jumping to enact laws without true forethought to what the after effects are.

    It is also truly sad that the 500 employees that are represented by one of the strongest unions in America yet they have absolutely zero support from anyone that their dues support because of political ties. Wake up Colt union employees, who really has your back? The company that fought for them today, or the people in their warm cozy union offices sipping on coffee with nothing to say?

    1. Jon Hendry

      “jumping to enact laws without true forethought to what the after effects are.”

      Sad that the firearms industry preys on and encourages people to be afraid, in order to make a buck, regardless of the how many people die as a result.

      Colt’s military sales are winding down, so they’re making up for it by selling AR-15s to frightened Americans to kill each other with.

      Colt’s customers don’t need guns, they need counseling and xanax, to deal with their baseless, irrational fear.

      1. Christopher

        Xanax and counseling are the one thing most mass murderers have in common. Do some actual fact checking before you open your fly and stomp on your own junk.

      2. Steve (CT)

        Its the anti-gun zealots who are spreading the fear. They mischaracterize various firearms to make them scary & lump in suicides in their ‘gun violence’ category to pump up their numbers.

        The only thing lawful gun owners are scared of is being used by legislators as scapegoats in an effort to pass laws so they can say they have ‘done something’. It matters not to the lawmakers that these laws will have no effect on crime & in truth the laws are intended to put a burden on lawful gun owners to discourage them.

      3. Violet

        Your first sentence does not go with the rest of your comments. Yes, it is senseless to be passing laws without truly determining their impact, positive and negative. The laws proposed and making their way through Congress will not stop bad people from doing bad things to good people. That is the world we live in and sooner or later we will all know it. Too much later I am afraid.

        1. Violet

          My comment did not go where I wanted it to. It was in response to the second or third above my response.

      4. Jack

        Hey Jon,

        Just what is it that qualifies you to decide what I need? I’ll put this as clearly as I can, BUTT OUT.

        I think I know what you need but not having a right to say what it is, unlike you, I’ll keep that to myself. If you don’t think owning a gun is a good idea don’t own one but don’t think for me…

  6. Bryan

    Pass these laws CT, it’s a small step in the right direction. It’s embarrassing and pathetic that we are so far behind the rest of the civilized world when it comes to guns. If these people can’t accept that they directly contribute to the death of thousands of Americans every year then they are either in denial, or are just plain dumb.

    1. Green3nergy

      You’re allegations are asinine. In no way do these workers directly contribute to the death of anyone. Also well under 500 Americans die each year domestically from an “assault rifle”. The majority of firearm related homicides are with a pistol. So… Get your information straight. Troll.

      1. Time for Change!

        More people die in car accidents, so using this twisted liberal logic, there should be huge outcry for the outlawing of cars.

    2. Mitchell

      Actually it’s sad that there are not sufficient mental health treatment programs and facilities in the state of Connecticut which has thousands fewer beds available to people who need the help. That’s what’s pathetic. Law-abiding people with AR-15s aren’t committing crimes and deaths caused by rifles are fractional compared to those by handguns used by criminals. Face the facts. Mentally ill people and criminals are at fault here.

      1. Jon Hendry

        “Law-abiding people with AR-15s aren’t committing crimes”

        Adam Lanza was law abiding until he shot his mother. Kinda useless to be making the distinction that late.

        Plenty of people are apparently “law abiding” until they snap and start murdering people.

    3. James

      You sir are an IDIOT. Please do NOT procreate or you will be directly responsible for your LOW IQ genes to be passed on with any resulting progeny being as much a MORON as you are.

    4. Class Act - COLT

      Would you prefer to send our men to arms without being ‘armed?’ Colt Defense supplies weapons that protect the FREEDOM that we have as our right to live in this country.


    5. Jim

      Dude, where do you get your statistics from? Thousands of people per year? Try less than 350 per year in ALL rifle related homicide (including suicide) check the FBI statistics.

  7. Scott

    Nice article but one fact is wrong. It’s been stated publicly that the guys in Newtown who’s name isn’t even worth sayings “did not” use a Bushmaster AR15 in the massacre. He entered the school with 3 semi automatic handguns. He was in possession of said AR15 but it was found in the back seat of his car and never used. I only say this because the misinformation that the media has pushed is partly responsible for the assault on the AR15 sportsman rifle. This rifle is no different than any other sporting semi auto rifle, it just has been designed to look like the military version which is a whole different animal.

    1. Jon Hendry

      “He entered the school with 3 semi automatic handguns. He was in possession of said AR15 but it was found in the back seat of his car and never used. ”

      Wrong. Stop reading moronic conspiracy theories on the internet.

      What was in the car was a *shotgun* that he didn’t bring in because his hands were full with the pistols and the bushmaster and the extra ammunition.

      Get your head out of your ass.

      1. Mike

        Jon You are wrong. A friend of mine in law enforcment read the report. The AR was in the car he was going to get it when he saw the first Police Office and when back in the school and killed himself.

  8. Jon Hendry

    Why isn’t Colt lobbying for reduced regulation of the select-fire M4?

    I mean, surely that’d be even *better* for business, right?

  9. nottoowildbill

    the first article i read the day the tradgedy happened, the state police said that the ar15 was in the trunk of the car, then i heard nothing else about it

    1. Steve (CT)

      There was a lot of incorrect reporting the day of the incident. Since then, the state police have reported that 2 pistols & a semi-auto rifle were recovered in the school & a shotgun was recovered from the car.

      The firearms matter much less than the intent of the individual. Even in the ‘gun free’ UK, a man in Cumbria in 2010 was able to kill 12 & wound 11 with only a bolt action .22 & a double barreled shotgun.

  10. Rob

    I have always thought of myself as living out my days in CT but I’ve recently come to believe CT is going down the socialist rat hole. The competition between states is going to become something like “winner-take-all” with people moving toward the pro-liberty, pro-constitution, pro-business states and away from the European socialist model states. Just look what’s happening between CA and TX. There’s a mass exodus from CA and the state will end up bankrupt or need a Federal bailout. Closer to home, there’s a reason CT housing prices are dead in the water while much of the country is rebounding. Trouncing the 2nd Amendment is just one more step along the way and especially painful for anyone who has studied the early history of this country and our Founding Fathers.

    1. Ed

      I agree with you. It is almost time for me to leave Connecticut. The state has become a socialist heaven.

  11. Matt from CT

    >Stricter background check measures and full licensing
    >requirements for rifles with pistol grips might
    >make sense and would keep Connecticut in the vanguard
    >of gun control legislation.

    And that I think is how far you can push the limits Constitutionally, at least with our Supreme Court as it’s likely to remain constituted for the next four years.

    There is no rational basis for banning semi-automatic rifles while handguns (which account for most murders and suicides, including most mass shootings) remain legal under a permit system.

    Possibly combined with a capacity limit, though I’m not sure 10 would survive a Constitutional challenge — a limit of 20 would likely pass Supreme Court muster (as it would include the standard capacity of most handguns).

    And that’s not because I support a permit system for long guns, I’m just addressing what is likely to pass muster today in the post-Heller legal landscape.

    1. Jim

      How, specifically, doe a pistol grip make any gun more dangerous? Do you even know what you are talking about? It’s a handle for God’s sake.

  12. Vote them all out

    Molon Labe!! Stay strong Colt workers the silent majority backs you. Malloy and these liberal socialist democrats will be defeated in a landslide in 2014.

  13. karen fischer

    The bottom line is this: If the assault rifle the Newtown shooter used to slaughter the children and teachers was previously banned AND if the ban on magazines of holding more than 10 rounds were both in effect, then it is possible if not likely that more of the children and teachers would be living today.

    See Dr. William Begg’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Warning: contains graphic pictures of bullet wounds.
    Please do not reply to my comment until you have read his entire testimony.

      1. Dan Haar

        The assailant in Newtown, whose name I have not once written in any of these columns, was using an AR-15 and 30-round magazines that were legal in Connecticut. The ban in this state does not extend to magazines, and it allows modified versions of the military-style rifle, which do not have features such as a flash suppressor and bayonet mount.

    1. TIM

      Dr. Begg’s testimony is not at all worthy of reading. You can show pictures of wounds from stabbing or car crashes and they will look worse. An his guess ….and yes its a guess …that a magazine size restriction would have made a difference is not credible either. Against small defenseless kids its easy to change mags and keep shooting. If your hell bent on killing people you can do it by taking a bag full of magazines. And if you outlaw guns you can take an axe to a school or drive a car through the school yard. The thing you gun control nuts don’t understand is that crazy people will find a way. If you get rid of guns you will still have suicides you will still have mass murders. And if you outlaw guns, weak defenseless people will be sitting ducks for the physically strong.

  14. jschmidt

    Malloy will gladly kiss away 741 jobs of gun manufacturers and 13.6 million in taxes, so he can have gun control And the schools will be no safer because there still won’t be armed resources officers in the school.

  15. Sarah

    I wonder what would have happened if a worker had refused to go–sounds like outright coercion to me

    1. Class Act - COLT

      All employees were given their choice as a citizen of the State of CT as well as an employee of Colt to attend the event. It was not a mandated event. That would be ridiculous.

  16. Frank Spencer-Molloy

    More of Dan Haar playing court jester to the poor, underrepresented business and corporate interests of Connecticut. The AR-15 is a nasty piece of work that has no place in the arsenals of America’s gun zealots. I don’t give a tinkers’s damn about how an AR-15 ban in CT affects jobs at Colt and Colt’s. These protestors should be ashamed they work there, churning out such drivel. If firing all gun employees could bring back just one of the lives lost on Dec. 14, I’d take that deal in a minute. Besides sales of assault weapons nationally are soaring. I don’t believe these crocodilians’ tears for one minute.

    1. Steve (CT)

      Frank, your ignorance about firearms is spoken in volumes here. The AR15 is not special about semi-automatic rifles, it is just easily demonized. They are rarely used in crimes & are not more powerful that other hunting rifles.

  17. Tom

    Be very careful Colt… In March 2000 Smith & Wesson was the only major gun manufacturer to sign an agreement with the Clinton Administration.[5] The company agreed to numerous safety and design standards as well as limits on the sale and distribution of its products. Gun clubs and gun rights groups responded to this agreement by initiating large-scale boycotts of Smith & Wesson by refusing to buy their new products and flooding the firearms market with used S&W guns.[5][6][7] After a 40% sales slide,[8] the sales impact from the boycotts led Smith & Wesson to suspend manufacturing at two plants.[9] The success of the boycott led to a Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation’s being initiated under the Clinton administration,[7] targeting gun dealers and gun rights groups, which was subsequently dropped in 2003.[10] This agreement signed by Tomkins PLC ended with the sale of Smith & Wesson to the Saf-T-Hammer Corporation. The new company (Smith and Wesson Holding Corporation), which publicly renounced the agreement, was received positively by the firearms community. -wikipedia

  18. Dan Haar

    Nice to hear from you, Frank. I haven’t often been accused of shilling for corporations, but fair enough. Every firearms worker and executive I’ve talked with would also quit the business if it would bring back one lost Newtown life — but it wouldn’t. That’s the trouble. The killer’s mother would have had, say, a semiautomatic .308 hunting rifle, or a Glock or a Beretta, any of which would have done the same damage, none of which would be banned even under the strictest of the proposed measures. As for 30-round magazines, there’s some evidence that six children were saved because the killer’s magazine jammed, which is more likely the larger it is. Columbine was the opposite, as the killers were grabbed when a magazine emptied. So there are no easy answers, much as you feel good venting. The compromise measures here are full registration and permitting for all rifles; controls over marketing, as with cigarettes; steps toward shooter ID technology; and background checks on all transactions, private deals included. NRA will howl about the lost freedoms but access will be controlled. As for military-style weapons, they account for a disproportionately low share of gun deaths and because they have pistol grips, probably reduce the number of accidental shootings. You’re free to argue based on emotion but unfortunately we as a society are better off with rational legislation.

  19. Vincent Vega

    What all the firearm companies in Connecticut should be doing is simply leaving the State, and taking their employees with them. Move up to New Hampshire where the business climate is ideal, with no personal income tax.

    Connecticut does not deserve tax dollars from these companies, or their employees.

  20. Scott

    I know people from the SWAT team that was in Newtown. The AR was in the car. They were told that if they talk about it they would lose there jobs. The liberal politicians who have the media in their pockets wants the AR banned and they use this misinformation to leverage the view of the AR.

    1. Steve (CT)

      Sorry Scott, but the video of the firearm being removed from the trunk shows a shotgun shell being ejected from it. The people you know on the SWAT team were probably given the wrong information unless they can personally say they removed it from the trunk of the car themselves.

  21. Truefacts

    Jobs at small shops that support firearms manufactures are starting to layoff. Families that find themselves out of work because of one crazy with a gun should starve and live in their cars. Its the manufactures fault that the killings happend not the shooter.

  22. ed

    i left ct for fl in 2010. bureaucracy , taxes and cold weather . for 6 miles from the beach great weather when 50 degrees is considered cold and i was able to purchase a house for only $14,000. move out people you are being screwed

  23. Peter

    ” The UAW, in fact, has been strangely silent on gun control ” – because the UAW are a bunch of whores for the Democratic Party. That bunch of misfits and Communists jump at any chance to put their boot on the throat of those they want to control. But keep paying those union dues, Colt employees – after all, your union has your back. Right?

  24. Y.A.D.

    The fact that millions of AR-15’s are lawfully owned in this country is not lost on those in the state and federal government who want to ban them. They just don’t care. According to a leaked memo, even the Justice Department has acknowledged that a ban will have no effect on gun violence. The liberals just can’t pass up an opportunity to ban a gun and they have no problem riding the graves of gun violence victims to do it.

  25. Ranger8021

    The reality is that gun control does not work nor is it constitutional in this country. However I do feel that much improvement can be made in the information available for background checks and most importantly there needs to be a ban on “plea bargains” for people charges with committing gun crimes and there mandatory jail time of no less than 10 years if someone commits a felony with a gun or violates other firearm laws for example convicted felons attempting to purchase or possessing a firearm. Believe me I work in law enforcement and most police officers are against gun control or gun bans but are very frustrated that District Attorneys plea bargain away almost all serious gun related charges in most criminal cases. If laws were better enforced and prosecuted to the full extent you would see an even bigger drop in violent gun crimes than we have since the 1994 ban expired.

    1. Joe Q Public

      If we didn’t have overzealous LEOs wasting court time and jail resources on ridiculous non-victim crimes like smoking pot, and colluding with DA’s to charge EVERYONE with a felony…bad check? Felony. Bag of pot? Felony. Driving with tail light out? Felony….we’d HAVE resources to deal with REAL crimes, and attorneys/judges would have no reason to have to plea on REAL crimes like violence, robbery, and any crime committed with a gun.

      When LEOs stop treating the taxpayer like a personal ATM for their department/city/county/state, and start enforcing laws with some common sense priority instead of prioritizing “revenue generation” legislation, we’d all be better off, real criminals would have real jail time, and maybe..just maybe….the taxpayer would go back to trusting LEO, because right now, Officer Anonymous, all LEOs have a real public relations problem.

      When one lives in glass houses…

  26. Rick Metzger

    Dear Colt employees: Why not consider moving to a stat that will welcome you and your skills? Texas probably heads the list, but there are or will be others. While it is painful to leave one’s roots, retirees do it in droves, and it is not to move to colder climates. Your children and grandchildren will b3e happy to visit you in your warmer environment and if you kick in for the tickets, so what?

    Colt, as a name, is near and dear to me – even more than muscle cars and any other brand I can think of. While Colt obviously wasn’t in business during the Revolutionary War, it is, in my mind, synonymous with the American birthright of freedom, and the sacrifices to maintain that freedom, since the mid-late 1800s.

    Don’t let it die. And don’t let your politicians lie. Move to another state if, and as soon as, you have the chance.

    I love you folks and your products. You are America.

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